20th Session of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians

ILO Director-General closes historic labour statistics Conference

Conference offers the world new statistical tools which will provide policy makers with much needed information on emerging and less visible forms of employment.

Statement | Geneva | 19 October 2018
Madam Chair, Mr Vice-Chair, Mr Rapporteur,
Distinguished delegates, colleagues,

I was very pleased to greet you at your opening reception last week and said I’d come back to speak to you again at the closing session of this 20th Session of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians. It is clear that you have done a good job, so thank you!

I have been following closely your intensive discussions in the plenary sessions and in the two Committees for the last ten days. It is evident that your commitment and hard work has produced a considerable number of resolutions and recommendations that should bring about huge improvements in the way we measure key concepts in the world of work. You have given your precious time and dedication, and now this venerable body the ICLS has accomplished extraordinary expert work.

If you allow, I would like to take a few moments to place this in the broader context. As you know, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 goals and 169 targets was adopted just three years ago by all countries, with the decent work agenda cutting across all goals, particularly focusing on Goal 8 on “decent work and economic growth” - but much more than that as well.

The point I want to make this morning is that the very ambitious 2030 Agenda has called for a data revolution. And the international statistical system has achieved a major task in identifying the right set of indicators to monitor progress on that Agenda. You, and those who have participated in previous ICLS sessions, have contributed in no small way to that achievement. That work allows the world to have available a wide range of agreed indicators, some already defined and ready to report, others in the process of development of definitions, methods and compilation approaches, in a way never achieved previously. We are proud of this achievement and in that let me transmit my congratulations to you and the teams working with you, as well as to the UN Statistical Commission and the Committee for Coordination of Statistical Activities.

In that context we are today closing what I know has been a very intensive period of discussion. I am sure that much of your work will resonate deeply in headline indicators, analytical work and the media everywhere.

The way that you have captured the challenges facing the statistical system in measuring so many aspects of the future of work – the world of work that is coming into being – also resonates deeply in this organization. Madam Chair, as you know the ILO will celebrate 100 years of existence next year and for that occasion, we launched a Future of Work Centenary Initiative, whose activities began with more than 110 national dialogues worldwide. Through these dialogues we had the opportunity to discuss with many of you the main drivers of change, the future role of work in society, how work and production will be organised and under which type of governance in the future.

From these dialogues, which have been feeding into the work of the Global Commission on the Future of Work I established last year, it has been very clear that the employment relationship is changing dramatically and will be changing even more in the coming years. The way this relationship is called into question, with blurred boundaries between dependent work and self-employment, a trend to more individualized forms of work, the emergence of new forms of employment: platforms, on-demand, crowd-work, temporary employment and agency work, and informality – all of these topics were discussed by you and addressed from many perspectives. It leads me to see very clearly the added value and pertinence of everything you’ve been doing over these two weeks.

You have discussed the development of new standards revisiting the existing classification of status in employment and now you offer to the world a new statistical framework which will provide more information on trends which are at the heart of the functioning of the labour market that is undergoing such transformational change. The revision that you have adopted today clearly follows the ground-breaking resolution on work which you adopted in 2013 during the last ICLS session. These new classifications you have agreed will now cover all forms of work and will provide policy makers with much needed alternative ways to make visible the emerging forms of employment that have been such a large part of your national discussions.

For example, Madam Chair, the measurement and valuation of unpaid work, and the care economy both paid and unpaid, and the status of women at work are all crucial issues that will directly benefit from the new classifications. The strong focus on both paid and unpaid work, which underlined much of the discussion in this conference, needs to be reflected elsewhere including in our Future of Work discussions and policy development more generally. This is going to allow better and more effective policies at the country level and will have a direct impact – and this is the most important result – on well-being for many people. I believe then that we can and we should take pride in the task you have accomplished during these days.

But you have also achieved other milestones. The adoption of an agreed methodology to measure labour rights within the 2030 Agenda, based on ILO sources is a major step forward and will fulfil the intention of the UN General Assembly in adopting a specific target on this topic. I thank all of you for actively discussing the best way to make good on this task, and I am pleased that the international statistical system is likely to choose the ILO as custodian agency. You have also discussed and agreed on another important SDG indicator which will address youth employment programmes as a way of monitoring progress on this serious and dramatic problem across the world of work.

I cannot do justice in the time available to the myriad topics you have been discussing and adopting during these long days in the ILO: the guidelines on labour migration, on forced labour, child labour, cooperatives, as well as the skills mismatch. All of these will help statisticians to capture more and better aspects of key variables in the world of work. You have assisted as well with the launch of tool-kits and other key resources to fully implement the important ICLS resolution on work statistics from 2013: these resources will be crucial to scale up the full implementation of the standards and will help countries to ease the unavoidable burden of changing procedures. The results of extensive and in-depth piloting and testing can now lead to better and more accurate application of recommended methods.

It remains for me to thank all and each of you for these and the other major accomplishments of the conference. We are receiving increasing demands every day for more data to enable better measurement of decent work, both on old and new topics some of which could never have been imagined a decade ago. That means we will need to keep on working hard together in this task, and I want to assure everyone in this room that the ILO is always ready to support you when you are back at home as well.

So it is not the end of the road, but the end of one step along the road, and I want to sincerely thank you all. This will probably be the penultimate major meeting in this room before we begin our Centenary year in 2019. It seems to me that as in the ILO we prepare the world of work we want in the coming years, in which there is such great interest, the capacity to measure what works and what we do right is of fundamental importance; yet that is often not recognized as being important, as it should be. So I want to thank you again for your work.

Thank you, Madam Chair.